Zack asked in Arts & HumanitiesPoetry · 2 months ago

Copyright question?

Say someone was inspired by a song they heard and enjoyed and decided to write a poem using some aspect of the song as a theme. Also say that that person felt that the exact title of the song was the best name for the poem. 

If this person then wanted to include this poem in a book and publish it, would there be any potential issues with copyright, due to the identical names and monetary gain by the writer?


Given the sheer number of songs in existence, it's possible an arbitrarily-chosen poem name could overlap with that of a song name by pure coincidence. 

It seems sensible to conclude that this provides an exception to a writer in terms of copyright law. This matter of coincidence is the context in which I framed this question.

7 Answers

  • 1 month ago

    Looking for an exception is not needed, re: similar names.  Names and ideas cannot be copyrighted, only the execution of those ideas.  This was originally found in the supreme court's decision in Selden v. Baker, and upheld several times since, including the recent case of Star Athletica v. Varsity.

    One important note is that copyrighted characters or nouns in a title will render a title copyright infringement.  For example, if you make a movie called The Empire Strikes Back, that's all well and good as every word in that title is not unique to the movie.  If you call a movie Return of the Jedi, you would be liable for infringement as "Jedi" is something unique to the Star Wars movies.

  • 2 months ago

    Lou Reed's song "Walk on the Wild Side" comes from the Nelson Algren novel of the same name. I was under the impression that titles, in and of themselves, could not be copyrighted.

    Regardless, you will only get in trouble, via copyright law, if the poem is high profile, well published, etc. So really it's an ethical matter of "ripping off" without proper attribution or acknowledgement. 

    Give credit where credit is due . . . !

  • 2 months ago

    The context of the poem must be copied to in order to break any copy-rights, not just the title.

  • Speed
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    I'm afraid there's some misinformation here from knowledgeable people who mean well.

    Titles are *not* copyrighted. You can use them freely. You could title your poem "Watermelon Sugar" or "Toosie Slide" and legally you are protected. Using the title of a popular song does mean nobody searching for your poem online is going to find it, as someone already noted.

    Lyrics, however, are copyrighted, and there is *not* a small amount you can legally use without written permission (outside of the legal "fair use" definition: parody, education, review and criticism). Usually permission involves payment, and when you see a song's lyrics in a trade published book, you can be assured money has changed hands.

    As soon as you have borrowed enough of the lyrics for someone to recognize it--which can be literally three or four words--you're inviting a lawsuit if the rights owner should decide to sue. Maybe they'll ignore it, or seek compensation outside of a copyright infringement lawsuit, but maybe they'll just set their attorneys loose.

    It's not a risk worth taking, so limit yourself to the title, if anything.

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  • Tina
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    If you are talking about a book of poetry, 'monetary gain by the writer' is probably not a consideration.

    However, if you give your poem the same title as someone else's song, you have  guaranteed that no one will ever be able to find the poem, because when they try all that will come up is the song.

  • Jake
    Lv 5
    2 months ago

    You’ll get sued and thrown in jail to rot for eternity 

  • 2 months ago

    Yes, there would be a problem. You can use a few words or phrases from the song, but the music industry is VERY protective of copyrights. If you give a poem the same name as the song, you're likely to hear from lawyers. 

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